What is it with the faith of Mitt Romney that produces so many arty defectors, including not just South Park co-creator Trey Parker and playwright/filmmaker Neil LaBute but, now, excommunicated sixth-generation Utah Mormon and missionary Steven Fales? Fales, whose journey took him from a squeaky-clean believer’s adherence to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints to drug-fueled New York hustling and beyond, tells his “true story” in Confessions of a Mormon Boy, which Boston Theatre Works brings to the BCA Plaza (through May 19). In the solo show, the clean-cut Fales, tossing off a few sweet songs, relates his story in a straightforward, ingenuous way that almost defies the term “show.”
Then again, this is a one-time aspiring chorus boy who knows that, however many times you thumb a well-worn Bible or crank up a voiceover of your innocent childhood self, it’s a good idea to take your clothes off — which the buff confessor does while shedding his Mormon uniform of white shirt and tie for the tight black jeans and open shirt of a well-remunerated Manhattan “escort.” Eventually he melds his disparate lives into that of a proud gay man, father of two, but not before being stretched on a rack of guilt and “reparative” quackery. Along the way, the church of his forefathers, having paid for counseling redolent of Freud and chest hair, convenes a kangaroo court to excommunicate “Brother Fales” for homosexuality, even though in its eyes homosexuality “does not exist.”
Confessions of a Mormon Boy is a disarming turn that reveals its perpetrator as more warm heart than hot body and strays only occasionally into banality, when Fales chronicles the on-again off-again journey of his Donny Osmond smile. And though the storyteller feels compelled to reach beyond droll one-liners — he’s an “oxy-Mormon,” an “Ethel Mormon,” and a “brokeback Mormon” — to tout de-victimization somewhat cheaply achieved, he and director Jack Hofsiss not only understand that less is more but infuse Fales’s less — and his lesson — with amoral charm. And the coup de théâtre with the hairpiece? That might work for Mitt.
Something rotting in the heartland is the subject of Sam Shepard’s 1979 Pulitzer Prize winner Buried Child, whose miraculous vegetables and festering mystery Nora Theatre Company unearths in a plain, well-acted revival at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre (through May 6). It’s the early 1970s in the ramshackle house of a once-thriving farm in Illinois, where patriarch Dodge has abandoned his fields for a place on the couch sandwiched between an old blanket and a sequestered pint of whiskey. There he engages in embittered banter with wife Halie, who’s holed up upstairs when not out gallivanting with a shilly-shallying man of the Protestant cloth, until middle-aged eldest son Tilden bursts from the kitchen, his arms full of sweet corn. The land out back, unseeded for 35 years, has yielded a harvest. What else lurks beneath the suddenly fertile soil is a dark family secret that, once grandson Vince makes a surprise appearance with girlfriend Shelly, will out as surely as the corn and the carrots.